The House approved a compromise version of the $3.43 billion Chrysler aid package yesterday, paving the way for Senate action today or tomorrow in an effort to rescue the fast-sinking automaker.
The passage vote was 271 to 136, after rejection of a conservative-backed attempt to take away more of the unionworkers' wage increases as a condition of the aid package.
Meanwhile, sponsors of a Senate plan that would freeze Chrysler union wages for three years offered to ease their demands, reducing the threat of a filibuster.
Sen. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. (R-Conn.) was reported willing to drop the filibuster idea if the wage freeze provision were softened on the floor.
Yesterday's developments eased fears that the aid bill might not make it through Congress before this weekend's scheduled adjournment Chrysler, its unions and the Carter administrtion are pushing for action before the holiday recess to avert a bankruptcy of the nation's 10th largest corporation.
Chrysler executives said last week that, due to lagging auto sales, the company will run out of cash in January rather than February, as had been expected.They have asked for an interim loan to keep the company going.
The legislation as passed by the House would provide Chrysler with $1.5 billion in federal loan guarantees, to be matched by $1.93 billion from private sources -- stockowners, suppliers, workers and banks.
By comparison, the Senate bill would provide for $1.25 billion in federal loan guarantees, with $1.4 billion from private sources. The Senate delayed all votes on the measure yesterday, waiting for the House to act.
How much pay United Auto Workers members should be required to forgo has been a key issue in the controversy surrounding the legislation. The UAW has said it will not accept a wage freeze.
The critical vote yesterday came on a motion by Rep. Dan Quayle (R-Ind.) increasing to $900 million the raises the UAW would have to give up -- a virtual wage freeze. The House rejected the amendment, 296 to 107, voting instead to set the union's "contributon" to Chrysler's rescue effort at $400 million -- the amount House leaders had specified in their compromise.
The House also turned down, 295 to 114, a last-ditch Republican effort to send the bill back to committee with instructions to require a wage freeze.
In practical terms, the House action means that the UAW would have to forgo an additional $200 million. It previously agreed to give up $200 million. Its wage hikes over the next three years had been expected to total $1.3 billion.
The bill before the Senate effectively would block the entire $1.3 billion in wage increases -- a move that is being fought both by the UAW and the administration.
However, Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), a chief sponsor of the wage freeze proposal, offered yesterday to trim his demands and require that the UAW give up $800 million, part of it in fringe benefits.
Lugar's compromise is opposed by a coalition of senators from states in which Chrysler has assembly plants, but so far this group does not appear to have the votes.
Efforts by these senators yesterday failed to win the support of a single senator from a state without a Chrysler plant. The Chrysler coalition is seeking a $400 millin limit, similar to that passed by the House.
The $400 million figure marks a concession, from the UAW's point of view. The bill reported by the House Banking Committee called for the union to give up $200 million in wage hikes.
Yesterday, the House added a mild sweetener for the UAW by approving a proposal by Rep. John Brademas (D-Ind.) that would require Chrysler's white-collar workers to forgo $100 million in pay increases.
Brademas' proposal also was designed as a parliamentary ploy to block further floor amendments, but that was squelched by House Republicans and several minor amendments were adopted.
In area voting, Virginia Democrats Joseph L. Fisher and Herber E. Harris and Maryland's Marjorie S. Holt (R) and Michael D. Barnes (D) voted against the aid package, while Gladys Noon Spellman (D-Md.) voted for it.